Where businesses are 'failing' when it comes to diversity and inclusion, writes Shani Dhanda

  • Article by Disability Activist Shani Dhanda, who reports in her own words about how businesses can improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace

The conversation on diversity and inclusion is typically addressed in a singular approach that segregates each identity, such as race and disability.

While this helps start the diversity conversation, it's far more complicated than that, yet many businesses are still stuck at the start - due to failing to take an intersectional approach to inclusion. 

My Reality

As a disabled Asian woman, I can experience bias and discrimination in multiple ways – as a consequence of my race, disability and gender, or as a combination of these. Here is an example:

1. As a person of colour, I’m three times as likely to be unemployed or if in work, I'm likely to be underpaid.

2. As a disabled person, I’m twice as likely to be unemployed or if in work, I'm likely to be underpaid.

3. As a woman, I’m likely to earn less than my male colleagues.

Pretty bleak, right?! This example relates to employment, highlighting the ethnicity, disability and gender pay gaps and privileges - but this example can be applied to a variety of life situations.

Shani has taken all of her barriers and turned them into positive opportunities


Over the past 20 years, the concept of intersectionality, first coined by scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, has emerged as an influential approach to understanding discrimination and exclusion in our society.

It refers to the nature of how personal characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, social class, age and disability overlap and intersect in dynamic ways that shape each individual.

It also recognises that an individual can identify as belonging to multiple identifying groups - the issue arises when someone who does fall into more than one group is boxed into one identity. 

While many businesses right now are looking at how racial inequality can manifest in policies, procedures, unspoken norms and routines that push people into different paths of opportunity, where some individuals have greater access, and others have less, due to race.

I want businesses also to consider how race coupled with other personal characteristics excludes and harms their employees and communities too.

"It's hard to live in a world that's not designed for you"

Businesses and brands have the ability to influence culture and influence society and need to take that responsibility seriously and do more

Intersectionality is important, so each of us can understand where we stand in the fight for equality, as well as where we stand to help others who may not have the privileges we have.

I encourage everyone to see themselves as allies of intersectional issues, which in turn will help us all to endorse change, shift the dial on the nature of diversity and inclusion practices and uplift even more people.